Commentary: Love, Loss and Lessons of the Wild Horses

by R.T. Fitch, author of “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Image, Cloud's grandson captured by the BLM, never to be free again.

Image, Cloud’s grandson captured by the BLM – (Photo by Terry Fitch)

I have sat at this computer and tried to put into words my feelings after viewing Ginger Kathrens‘ third installment of the “Cloud” series on PBS last night.  It’s not coming easy as there are a variety of emotions at play.

I’ve come to realize that I have not nor can not shake the feeling of helplessness and pain I felt as we stood next to Ginger, Makendra, Ben, Ann, Pam, Carol and other wild horse advocates and watched the Cattoor helicopter torture and torment Cloud and his family on Labor Day, September 7th, 2009.  We had done everything that we could think to do to stop the BLM assault, but all to no avail.  We had begged and pleaded with news agencies and politicians to get the word out and maybe someone, somewhere would pull the plug.  Perhaps even the new President might show some compassion, but all our cries fell upon deaf ears and as we sat, day after day, watching the helicopter drive the horses out of the mountains in 95+ degree heat, our hearts sank.

I watched Ginger’s presentation which delved deeply into the family ties and instincts that both drive and bond a wild horse band together, only knowing that Cloud’s family was, now, ripped to pieces by the BLM.  Not only did he lose family members, but his mares were pumped full of chemical contraceptives so that they will not bear foals for him for many years, it could be the end of his blood line.

I watched the documentary and took note of how hard Cloud tried to keep his family together, over the years, only to be fully aware that his children and grandchildren would be stripped from his herd to be sold at auction, never again to live free of fences and human meddling.

It was difficult to appreciate the fantastic and spectacular cinematography skill of Ginger Kathrens as my eyes were clouded by tears and the images often where nothing more than moving, colored blurs as I fought to maintain my composure.

So much lost, nothing to gain and I could garner no joy by watching Cloud on the TV knowing that in the future, our current past, he would be abused, maligned and mismanaged into oblivion by the very same government agency that is bound by law to protect him.  There is no justice.

I recall Cloud’s bravery as he would not follow the straight and narrow path that the abusive helicopter sought.  I will never forget him stopping well in front of the trap’s gate and turning to face his enemy, the helicopter.  Forever carved into mind is the image of Cloud turning and trotting with head held high into his awaiting prison cell; pride and supremacy ran from every pore of his body.  And I will never forget him trying to stay near the pens, once released, as he did not want to leave without all of his family…I will forever remember  his courage, dignity and his family bond.

How is it that a horse, a wild one at that, can act and live with more dignity and grace than the so-called leaders of our political juggernaut, I shall never know?



Editor’s note: The Documentary is fantastic, insightful and thought-provoking.  The feelings, expressed here, are driven by the misguided actions of the BLM and do not reflect upon the quality or intent of the PBS documentary.  It is important for the plight of the wild horse to be out in front of the American people and Cloud puts the face on that issue.

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21 comments on “Commentary: Love, Loss and Lessons of the Wild Horses

  1. Though we knew so many harsh realities as we all sat to watch Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions, it was somehow comforting to have this beautiful film to share with my grandchildren. I will sit with them someday and tell them all we did to cease or slowdown the atrocity of Mustang and Burro extinction. I will tell them all about the wonderful, brave and tenderhearted people I met while helping in the battle. I will tell them I met and embraced Ginger Kathrens in Washington at Mustangs on The Hill, telling them what a gifts God had placed within her soul. The saga is not over yet. I plan to have a victorious ending to the story I tell the children. I was just a child when Wild Horse Annie was waging her campaign and listened to others to tell me about her endless ability to persevere and see a goal realized. Then I read Marguarite Henry’s books and was hooked into equine activism for the rest of my natural life. My first shetland pony was a near starvation rescue. He was my closet friend for years. I will do the same as those who instilled my passion for horses (#1, my Mum) and instill the same into the coming generation who need to continue the fight for Mustangs, Burros and domestic horses all over America.

    Onward we go soldiers!

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    • RJ Daum:

      I have been waiting to get a call back from Frank Kuntz. I called after the roundup and knew he had filed an injunction against the other North Dakota Nakota organization about using the term “Nakota”. Then there was the auction on Friday which resulted in horrifying mustangs deaths. Have you been in touch with the Kuntz’? The last time I spoke to Framk was the second week of October. I missed the wonderful interveiw Frank did on Howling Ridge Radio last week but did listen on-line a few days later. Frank is a walking history book.

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      • RJ Daum:

        I actually have Frank’s cell phone number. I just did not want to disturb him, his wife or brother while they are dealing with the events of the last week. I am sure they are pretty upset. I just left a voicemail last week Wednesday. Don’t want to be pushy. I can be an “a type” personality and have to keep myself in check.

        Just thought maybe you have spoken to them and have some news.

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    • RJ:

      This article was posted on Facebook by a number of people. It was also posted on the Cloud Foundation’s WordPress blog. The blog is keeping people updated on roundups and news reports. Then cross posting is done on Facebook and other websites like Wild Hoofbeats, Straight From The Horses Heart (or vicesa versa). News is traveling fast, which is good. We can keep each other educated and aware of facts. I am beginning to see news on Huffington Post and the Washington Post (on-line). So far what I have read is NOT slanted towards BLM or DOI. I took kind of a funny path to my current involvement. I saw Cloud on PBS, then went to YouTube and then BOOM! Whole can of worms exploded. I had already known about pro Mustang work & activism against horse slaughter. I just did not realize the full depth of the bloody lies and mismanagment. But I had some tough family issues to deal with too over the last 11 years.

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  2. RT,
    It’s a shame that we will ever know the answer to your final question or understand why.
    I also wasn’t able to shake the feeling of sadness as I watched the film, knowing what the future held for the herd. It’s sad that the film is now just a reflection of the past, and that the lives of these horses were forever changed.
    Thank you, RT. Even though this is heartbreaking, it’s a bittersweet and beautifully written tribute to the horses.

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  3. I think one of the sadest things was how little Rain ,who was so frail and born late, made it through the winter only to lose her family and freedom. I am too angry to cry anymore. Some way our wild horses and burros have to be saved for future gemerations. My sister’s class of 5th graders will be sending post cards to our 2 senators. Maybe more kids as well as adults can do this and call Obama every day . Also we can pray .
    The documentary was awesome and the horses were magnificent. Many thanks,Ginger.

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  4. I felt the same emotions, RT. Of course I take some comfort in the knowledge that Cloud and Firestorm seem to have recovered fully from their injuries and that Image and Ember have a wonderful home with someone who loves and understands them.

    How much better it would have been if they had been left alone to live their lives in peace. But how much worse it could have been if Cloud and Firestorm had suffered permanent injuries, and we had no knowledge of what happened to Image and Ember.

    Although I try to find solace where I can, words can’t describe my anger and frustration over this – not to mention what is going to happen in the future. I will never stop fighting for the wild horses and against the slaughter of any horse.

    Keep the Faith, my dear friends.

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  5. RT, yes, the joy was overshadowed by the losses we new about from Shaman who was spared the roundup when he died, as he should, wild and free. That Sitka was gone, I knew because she was not mentioned and I looked for her in photos taken during the roundup. Dusty had been the first loss to lions I had learned about last year after first seeing the wonderful photos of him at TCF site. Then the news he was gone and the bait trap, I do not understand, that kept the horses close, too long in one place. Through the show I was crying quietly and telling Roger about the horses that had been adopted. My heart went out to Ginger who has been by the foals so young, the shifting families, the stallions fights and the searching and hoping for the missing. Ginger brought us these horses out of love, to admire and care passionately for through this deadly and continually threatening time. I thank you, Ginger, for being who and what you are; an artist and horse lover. mar

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  6. This was a lovely and wonderful documentary that Ginger made but so sad knowing what was coming and would keep coming to other horses everywhere. Unfortunately not only here in the US. I spend too much time close to tears and close to anger. A horrible way to be compelled to fight on, but fight on I will along with so many others. Yes RT, of all the photos of those awful days the ones that are burned into my mind are Cloud facing the helicopter and then upon release looking for his family. If he were human I’d be honored to date him.

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  7. Alert to these discussions, AZ channel 124, C-SPAN

    Dear Wild Horses Advocates~~~~On C-SPAN tonight: On November 2, 2009, Topic: There will be three panels tonight on Energy ,Ecomomy/ Jobs, & Climate Change.

    There will be three panels tonight. Please alert everyone please to get transcripts and listen to a re-broadcast. They are asking for feedback from all Steakholders, State, Goverment, Tribes, Public etc.

    Best to All
    Thank you all the Love of Wild Horses. Everyones keep the faith and continue to help the Muted ones.
    Bless you

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